When working in the arts (or any industry for that matter) there are certain words you start to hear being used quite regularly. So much so in fact, if we hadn’t graduated from art school, we would assume there was a shortlist of need-to-know art jargon that was handed out on the first day of classes. There are definitely a lot of “arty” terms out there with convoluted and constantly evolving definitions, but there are two words in particular that are often used interchangeably and incorrectly. Conservation and restoration are both similar sounding and relate to each other, although they are actually two completely separate nouns.
What is conservation?
Conservation speaks to the preventive measures put in place to avoid damage to a collection of art or objects before an incident occurs. The primary goal of conservation is to safely preserve and protect the original condition or function.
Lots of common damage to artwork we see in the Calgary area is caused by sunlight, improper handling, lack of humidity, excessive humidity/water damage, temperature extremes, pests, and use of non archival storage and/or framing materials. You can learn more about these hazards and how to prevent them in our next article.
What is restoration?
Restoration speaks to the repair efforts made to bring art or objects back to their original condition or function after damage has occurred. It should be noted that although the goal of a restorer is one of good intentions, not all restorer’s skills are equal and as we see in art news headlines around the globe, a bad restoration can become much worse to the state of the artwork than the original damage. See here for the newly “restored” Bartolomé Esteban Murillo’s, The Immaculate Conception of Los Venerables, in Spain, to see what we mean.
At Tiller Wolf, we specialize in preventative conservation of art and objects and utilize our vast network of industry experts to facilitate any required restoration. We can create a custom collections management system for your collection’s unique needs.